NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–There is one irreducible law of church growth: start new units. That is, start new groups, new classes, new ministry teams, new missions, new churches.
As you apply this principle to setting goals for Sunday School growth, keep the numbers three, five and 10 in mind:
— Three. In my little book, “The 3D Sunday School,” the basic idea is that a healthy class balances three dimensions of effective Sunday School work: “invite,” “discover” and “connect.” Ideally, each Sunday School department or class will have one leader with primary responsibility for each one of those dimensions. The three categories also could be called “hospitality,” “ministry” and “fellowship.”
There are lots of ways to organize the work. You could have more or fewer leaders. But three is a good number to shoot for, especially if you are thinking about creating a new class.
— Five. A healthy class has one leader assigned to develop a relationship with and minister to about five members. So, without enlisting additional leaders, a class with the minimum of three leaders could care for an additional 15 members (18 total, including the leaders).
In student and adult classes, this responsibility can be assigned to care group leaders who function under the guidance of the “connect” leader. The job description of the care group leader is simple: Every week contact every member — not just absentees. In these conversations, I would seldom mention attendance at all. Just develop a relationship, listen for needs, meet the needs as appropriate, and if a need requires a class response, pass that information along to the “connect” leader, director and/or teacher.
Also, I strongly recommend that care groups in student and adult classes be arranged by gender. Why? Because in a married adult class, if you have husband and wife group leaders, the women typically call the women, and the men never make or receive a call. Ideally a class would have one man responsible for contacting five other men each week; one woman responsible for contacting five other women each week.
— Ten. Each time you start a new class based on the principles above, it will usually increase the total attendance in your Sunday School by 10. Those 10 may not all be in the same class. They may be members of the same family attending other classes. But on average, most new classes will have a positive impact of about 10 on your total attendance.
Here’s the 3-5-10 system put into practice: Following a conference recently, a pastor approached me for specific guidance about his church. His average Sunday School attendance was about 120. For this exercise, we chose 200 as a goal. Based on the 3-5-10 plan, I asked him how many new units would need to be started to reach his attendance goal.
He responded correctly: “Eight” (200-120=80; 80/10=8). And how many workers would need to be enlisted and trained to staff the eight new classes? Again he answered correctly: “Twenty-four” (8×3=24).
This pastor walked away with a sense of excitement because he had a workable plan to reach his goals. How can you put 3-5-10 to work for you?
David Francis serves as director of Sunday school for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.